Calvary Road Baptist Church

“WHAT IS REPENTANCE?”

 This message will be about repentance. I will not preach this message, but will teach it. My goal is to inform you, rather than attempting to move you to a decision. What I hope you will keep in mind throughout is the importance of repentance. To illustrate the importance of repentance, I offer these observations written by the Puritan preacher Thomas Watson: “A woman may as well expect to have a child without pangs as one can have repentance without sorrow.” “He that can believe without doubting, suspect his faith; and he that can repent without sorrowing, suspect his repentance.”[1]

What is repentance? Metanoia is the common Greek word typically translated repentance. Though I disagree with him about Lordship salvation and the blood of Jesus Christ, John MacArthur’s comment about repentance in Acts 2.38 is right on target: “This refers to a change of mind and purpose that turns an individual from sin to God (1 Thess. 1:9). Such change involves more than fearing the consequences of God’s judgment. Genuine repentance knows that the evil of sin must be forsaken and the person and work of Christ totally and singularly embraced. Peter exhorted his hearers to repent, otherwise they would not experience true conversion.”[2]

As we proceed, you will come to grasp the significance of the word, and its importance in the Bible and in the Christian’s life. Seven main points related to repentance, to help you discover whether you have ever experienced genuine repentance:

 First, OLD TESTAMENT EXAMPLES AND ILLUSTRATIONS OF REPENTANCE

 First, we examine the repentance of King David. I will spend no time reviewing David’s sin of adultery with Bathsheba and the murder of Uriah to cover up the adultery, but will focus on David’s repentance. When the prophet Nathan confronted David with a story of sin that evoked from David a sense of outrage over a sin, Nathan told David that the story was really about him, saying, “Thou art the man.”[3] David’s confession that was produced by his repentance is recorded in Second Samuel 12.13, “And David said unto Nathan, I have sinned against the LORD.”

Mr. Spurgeon writes on this verse,

 “A child of God may sin, but he cannot continue in it. If there had been no grace in David, he would have been angry with Nathan, but the spiritual life within him brought him into the dust of repentance at once. Many sin, as David did; but never repent, as he did.”[4]

Psalm 32.5 records David’s confession of his sin, keeping in mind that heartfelt repentance provokes confession of sin:

 “I acknowledged my sin unto thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the LORD; and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin. Selah.”

Notice how deep and penetrating David’s repentance is in Psalm 51.3-10:

 3      For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me.

4      Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest.

5      Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.

6      Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts: and in the hidden part thou shalt make me to know wisdom.

7      Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.

8      Make me to hear joy and gladness; that the bones which thou hast broken may rejoice.

9      Hide thy face from my sins, and blot out all mine iniquities.

10     Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.

David’s repentance is shown in these three passages by his sight of sin, his sorrow for sin, and his confession of sin.[5]

We now consider a second example of David’s repentance. Later in David’s life, Satan provoked him to number the people in violation of God’s will, First Chronicles 21.1. “And God was displeased with this thing; therefore he smote Israel.”[6] Notice David’s repentance, in First Chronicles 21.8: “And David said unto God, I have sinned greatly, because I have done this thing: but now, I beseech thee, do away the iniquity of thy servant; for I have done very foolishly.”

A third example of repentance is found in the book of Jonah. God dispatched the prophet Jonah to the Assyrian city of Nineveh, Jonah 1.2. Of course, Jonah fled in the opposite direction, was then swallowed by a great fish, was subsequently vomited onto the beach three days later, and dutifully made his way to Nineveh. Upon entering the city of Nineveh, Jonah cried, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown,” Jonah 3.4. There is no indication anywhere in God’s Word that Jonah promised the Ninevites anything or attempted to evoke from them any kind of response. His method was to simply declare that God’s judgment was about to fall. Jonah 3.5-10 records their repentance:

5      So the people of Nineveh believed God, and proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them even to the least of them.

6      For word came unto the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, and he laid his robe from him, and covered him with sackcloth, and sat in ashes.

7      And he caused it to be proclaimed and published through Nineveh by the decree of the king and his nobles, saying, Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste any thing: let them not feed, nor drink water:

8      But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and cry mightily unto God: yea, let them turn every one from his evil way, and from the violence that is in their hands.

9      Who can tell if God will turn and repent, and turn away from his fierce anger, that we perish not?

10     And God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God repented of the evil, that he had said that he would do unto them; and he did it not.

We will conclude our Old Testament examples of repentance with Jeremiah 31.18-19, where we see the connection that exists between conversion (turning) and repentance, as well as the physical response that is frequently seen in association with repentance:

 18     I have surely heard Ephraim bemoaning himself thus; Thou hast chastised me, and I was chastised, as a bullock unaccustomed to the yoke: turn thou me, and I shall be turned; for thou art the LORD my God.

19     Surely after that I was turned, I repented; and after that I was instructed, I smote upon my thigh: I was ashamed, yea, even confounded, because I did bear the reproach of my youth.

 Next, NEW TESTAMENT EXAMPLES AND ILLUSTRATIONS OF REPENTANCE

 John the Baptist’s message, according to Matthew 3.2, was “Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” He also warned Pharisees and Sadducees who had come to observe his ministry, “Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance,” Matthew 3.8.

Responding to Pharisees who criticized Him for eating with sinners, Jesus described His ministry, “I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance,” Matthew 9.13.

On the Day of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit was poured out as promised, Peter preached to thousands. Acts 2.37-38 shows their response and Peter’s counsel to those who responded:

 37     Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do?

38     Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.

Third, COMPANIONS OF REPENTANCE - CONVICTION AND CONVERSION

We have already seen it with King David and the people of Nineveh, as well as Acts 2.38, but repentance is always associated with two things that distinguish it as genuine repentance, conviction and conversion.

Conviction is the judgment and determination that you are guilty of your sins, and that your just punishment is an eternity in the lake of fire suffering God’s righteous wrath. It is the sinner’s verdict of guilty against himself. Not to say that you want to face such an end, but conviction is the recognition by a sinner that he deserves such an end.

Conversion, on the other hand, is the turning about of one’s life in connection with repentance. Does conversion come before or after repentance? Who is to say in all cases? What can be said in any event is that conversion is always connected to repentance. Some mightily repent and are converted, while others are converted and then mightily repent. However, all who truly repent are converted to Christ and a different course of life.

Fourth, COUNTERFEIT REPENTANCE

 Most of us are familiar with Jacob’s twin brother, Esau, who sold his birthright for a morsel of meat. However, notice the Holy Spirit’s estimation of his emotional display that would have convinced most evangelicals he had repented, Hebrews 12.16-17:

16     Lest there be any fornicator, or profane person, as Esau, who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright.

17     For ye know how that afterward, when he would have inherited the blessing, he was rejected: for he found no place of repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears.

 Esau’s emotional display was no real remorse for his sins, but was actually an emotional attempt to manipulate his father to obtain a blessing he did not deserve. His repentance was clearly counterfeit.

Another counterfeit repentance is seen in the life of Simon the magician, in Acts chapter 8. Acts 8.13 informs us that Simon believed, was baptized, and continued with Philip. However, his repentance was counterfeit. How do we know? The Apostle Peter was witness to Simon’s attempt to purchase the Holy Spirit with money, whereupon he openly and publicly rebuked him, calling on him to “Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee,” Acts 8.22. The Apostle Peter discerned that Simon’s repentance had been fraudulent.

The Apostle Paul speaks to this matter in Second Corinthians 7.10-11, where he writes,

 10     For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death.

11     For behold this selfsame thing, that ye sorrowed after a godly sort, what carefulness it wrought in you, yea, what clearing of yourselves, yea, what indignation, yea, what fear, yea, what vehement desire, yea, what zeal, yea, what revenge! In all things ye have approved yourselves to be clear in this matter.

 Verse 10 shows us there are two kinds of repentance, “repentance to salvation not to be repented of,” and counterfeit repentance that expresses only “the sorrow of the world that worketh death” and not godly sorrow. Verse 11 describes the characteristics associated with godly repentance, the kind that works salvation, the kind Paul observed and complimented in the lives of the Corinthians.

 Fifth, REPENTANCE SHOULD BE PREACHED

 Some years ago a fellow who published a periodical devoted to soul winning, wrote an article in which he stated in no uncertain terms that since the word repentance is nowhere found in John’s Gospel, repentance should not be understood to be part of the gospel message. Sadly, what he was foolish enough to put in writing is actually the thrust of so-called evangelism these days.

How does one reconcile what this spiritual leader wrote with what we have seen of John the Baptist’s preaching, Matthew 3.2, was “Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand,” and the Savior’s own words, “I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance,” Matthew 9.13?

How about His post-resurrection charge to the disciples on the road to Emmaus, in Luke 24.46-47?

 46     And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day:

47     And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.

 Who are we to remove the call to repentance from our gospel preaching after what the Savior has commanded?

 Sixth, REPENTANCE IS COMMANDED

 It was commanded on the Day of Pentecost, in Acts 2.38: “Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.”

Repentance was once more commanded by Peter as he preached to a crowd shortly after he had healed the impotent man as he approached the Temple, Acts 3.19: “Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord.”

We have already considered Peter’s command to Simon the magician to repent, in Acts 8.22: “Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee.”

As well, when the Apostle Paul was preaching on Mars Hill in Athens in Acts 17.30, he declared, “And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent.”

Even if the gospel minister chooses not to use the word repentance for fear his audience with a Roman Catholic background may misunderstand him to be demanding penance or acts of contrition, which is not what is meant by repentance, the concept of repentance should be at the center of our message.

 Finally, REPENTANCE IS INTEGRAL TO FAITH

 I have had little to say this evening about faith. Let no one hearing me think by this that I am minimizing faith, or that there are two ways for a sinner to be saved, with one way being faith in Christ and a second way to be repentance of sins. Such is not at all the case. The reality is that faith in Christ is in real repentance of sins and repentance of sins is only real if it is accompanied by faith in Christ. Repentance and faith are actually opposite sides of the same gospel coin.

Turn to Hebrews 6.1, where we see the correlation between faith and repentance: “Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God.” So you see, when a sinner is convicted of his sins as the Holy Spirit applies gospel truth to his mind and heart, there are two sides to his proper response to the gospel message. Considered from one perspective, the sinner turns away from his sins by repentance, an evangelical change of mind that results from godly sorrow. However, just as true and considered from another perspective, the sinner is turning to Jesus Christ in faith believing.

Repentance and faith are not the same, and they should not be thought of as being the same. However, real repentance is integral and cannot properly be separated from faith in Christ. Were you giving thought only to Jesus when you were converted, having no conscious recollection of repentance? That is no problem if by coming to Christ you turned your back on sin. If you are still in your sins, however, and there has been no turn about and a new course set for your life, then you did not really come to Christ and there has been no saving faith, because there was no accompanying repentance evidenced in any way, as was born out in the life of Simon the magician.

 I close with two citations, the first from the Westminster Confession of Faith (1646), chapter fifteen, of repentance unto life:

CHAPTER XV.

Of Repentance Unto Life.

I.    Repentance unto life is an evangelical grace, the doctrine whereof is to be preached by every minister of the gospel, as well as that of faith in Christ.

II.  By it a sinner, out of the sight and sense, not only of the danger, but also of the filthiness and odiousness of his sins, as contrary to the holy nature and righteous law of God, and upon the apprehension of his mercy in Christ to such as are penitent, so grieves for, and hates his sins, as to turn from them all unto God, purposing and endeavoring to walk with him in all the ways of his commandments.

III. Although repentance be not to be rested in as any satisfaction for sin, or any cause of the pardon thereof, which is the act of God’s free grace in Christ; yet is it of such necessity to all sinners, that none may expect pardon without it.

IV. As there is no sin so small but it deserves damnation; so there is no sin so great that it can bring damnation upon those who truly repent.

V.  Men ought not to content themselves with a general repentance, but it is every man’s duty to endeavor to repent of his particular sins, particularly.

VI. As every man is bound to make private confession of his sins to God, praying for the pardon thereof, upon which, and the forsaking of them, he shall find mercy: so he that scandalizeth his brother, or the Church of Christ, ought to be willing, by a private or public confession and sorrow for his sin, to declare his repentance to those that are offended; who are thereupon to be reconciled to him, and in love to receive him.[7]

 

The second citation is from the Second London Baptist Confession of Faith (1689), of repentance unto life and salvation:

CHAPTER 15; OF REPENTANCE UNTO LIFE AND SALVATION

Paragraph   1.  Such of the elect that are converted at riper years, having sometime lived in the state of nature, and therein served divers pleasures, God in their effectual calling gives them repentance to life.1

1 Titus 3:2-5

Paragraph   2.  Whereas there is none that does good and does not sin,2 and the best of men may, through the power and deceitfulness of their corruption dwelling in them, with the prevalency of temptation, fall in to great sins and provocations; God has, in the covenant of grace, mercifully provided that believers so sinning and falling be renewed through repentance unto salvation.3

2 Eccles. 7:20

3 Luke 22:31, 32

Paragraph   3.  This saving repentance is an evangelical grace,4 whereby a person, being by the Holy Spirit made sensible of the manifold evils of his sin, does, by faith in Christ, humble himself for it with godly sorrow, detestation of it, and self-abhorrancy,5 praying for pardon and strength of grace, with a purpose and endeavor, by supplies of the Spirit, to walk before God unto all well-pleasing in all things.6

4 Zech. 12:10; Acts 11:18

5 Ezek. 36:31; 2 Cor. 7:11

6 Ps. 119:6, 128

Paragraph   4.  As repentance is to be continued through the whole course of our lives, upon the account of the body of death, and the motions thereof, so it is every man’s duty to repent of his particular known sins particularly.7

7 Luke 19:8; 1 Tim. 1:13, 15

Paragraph   5.  Such is the provision which God has made through Christ in the covenant of grace for the preservation of believers unto salvation, that although there is no sin so small but it deserves damnation,8 yet there is no sin so great that it shall bring damnation to them that repent,9 which makes the constant preaching of repentance necessary.

8 Rom. 6:23

9 Isa. 1:16-18, 55:7[8]

 

So you see, repentance has always been seen to be a crucial matter in any Christian’s life, both at the beginning and throughout. If repentance is absent from your life, at the beginning in some way and during the course of it since the beginning, it is not the Christian life you are living, but something else entirely.



[1] Thomas Watson, The Doctrine Of Repentance, (Carlisle, Pennsylvania: The Banner Of Truth Trust, 1668 original republished and slightly revised 1987), page 19.

[2] See footnote for Acts 2.38 from John MacArthur, The MacArthur Study Bible, (Nashville: Word Publishing, 1997), page 1637.

[3] 2 Samuel 12.7

[4] Charles H. Spurgeon, Spurgeon Devotional Commentary, (Bronson, MI: Online Publishing, Inc., 2002), bible@mail.com

[5] Watson, pages 18-38.

[6] 1 Chronicles 21.7

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pastor@calvaryroadbaptist.org